blogs

Vague

“So Mr. Khurana, what did you see in your dream?”

Vishnu Khurana was sitting in a plush recliner. Sitting directly in front of him, in an equally comfortable recliner was Dr. Bose. The décor of the clinic created a relaxing environment. Vishnu sat staring at the ceiling with his shoulders hunched and arms resting on his laps. He looked troubled.

“Doctor, is this really helping? The weird dreams just don’t stop.”

Dr. Bose adjusted his thin frame glasses and uncrossed his legs.

“Mr. Khurana, we have been seeing each other just for a week now. She requested me to talk to you and help you in dealing with your nightmares.”

Vishnu suddenly stood up.

“I have told you, they are not nightmares.”

“Yes, yes. These not-so-pleasant dreams, we will deal with them. Please have a seat and tell me about the one you had yesterday night. Was it vague again?”

Vishnu sat back into the recliner.

“Doctor, the dreams are never vague. Just this particular character..”

“..the lady?”

“Yeah, the lady. The rest of the things I see in my dream are crystal-clear. So, the dream began with me lying on a charpoy in the middle of nowhere. I just lay there gazing at the cloudless blue sky. There were no birds, no sun even. Just a constant shade of blue.”

“Do continue.”

“After that, I got up from the charpoy and a motorcycle appeared from nowhere. It just apparated right in front of me.”

“That happens in dreams. It is quite normal. Go on.”

“I got on the bike and began going down the road.”

“Which road?”

“There was just one road. It also came into existent right after I got on the bike.”

The doctor scribbled something in his notebook.

“Very well, go on.”

“As I was riding down the road, all I could see was barren land all around me. It was arid, as if it had been devoid of water for decades.”

Dr. Bose nodded, indicating that Vishnu should continue.

“Suddenly, I reached a city. There were buildings and shops and parked vehicle, but no people. It was an empty city.”

“There was not a single person present?”

“None. No living thing at all.”

Dr. Bose nodded and made more notes. Vishnu reached for the glass of water kept on the adjacent table. He took a large gulp and placed the glass back in its position.

“Then I continued riding and reached the bazaar. I could tell because it had different shops there. In fact, all establishments over there were shops other than one. That one was a temple.”

“A temple. Alright, go on Mr. Khurana.”

“I get off the bike and step inside the temple. Again, there is no one there – complete darkness. However, a few feet away I can see a luggage bag. I could see it because it was glowing. So, I walked towards it, picked it up and walked out.”

“You did not check what was in the bag?”

“No, doctor I did not. I just walked out and got on to the bike. Then I sped off.”

“Okay, Mr. Khurana. Please continue.”

“I took the same road and returned to the same charpoy, from where I had started my dream. And then I saw her – The lady. I handed the luggage bag over to her, she walked off, and I woke up with the feeling that something was wrong. Like every night.”

“In your previous visits, you had said you could not see her clearly. How do you know it was the same lady?”

“I know, because I could feel it, doctor. She felt familiar. This time, I could see her a bit more clearly. I could make out that she was wearing a short red dress.”

“What about her face? Get a look at that?”

“No, doctor. The rest of her, including her face was still vague.”

Dr. Bose clicked his pen, indicating the session was over.

“Well, we seem to be making progress, Mr. Khurana. These troublesome dreams will stop soon. I am increasing the dosage of your medicines for now. Don’t forget to take them twice every day.”

The doctor handed over a medicine bottle to Vishnu who pocketed it. The two got up from their spots and began walking towards the door of the clinic.

“Thank you, doctor. I hope these dreams stop occurring.”

“I hope so too, Mr. Khurana. We will make that happen. Have a nice day.”

“Goodbye, doctor.”

Dr. Bose closed the door behind Vishnu. He walked to the window and watched as Vishnu got into his car and drove away. After he had gone out of sight, Dr. Bose fished out his phone and placed a call. A sultry voice answered the call.

“Hi, doctor. How did it go?”

“It is not going as well as planned. He remembers a great deal of his night activities.”

“Does he remember it all?”

“No, it is just a vague representation. He sees an empty city instead of a room full of people he has killed and other such things.”

“Then it is okay, the drug is working. He has no idea what he is up to every night.”

“Yes, it is working. Besides, I gave your husband a stronger dosage of the drug. Just in case.”

“Very well, doctor. Our plan seems to be going in order.”

“By the way, were you wearing red yesterday night when you collected the bag of drugs from him?”

“That was good doctor! How did you know?”

“Just a vague guess.”

 

 

 

Image courtesy: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/49/66/59/4966594ee5b2349c0eb802f05b90dda3.jpg

via Daily Prompt: Vague

Graveyard Walk

The moon observed the two friends as they crossed the cobbled street. In contrast to the white splendor of the moon, the two were clothed in dull, tattered garbs. They held on to each other for support as they hobbled along. The gaslights were the only source of illumination for the two, in these wee hours. The duo stopped in front of the cemetery.

“We are here, Harry.”

“Yes, we are, Don.”

Harry pushed open the gate. Don could see it was taking Harry a massive effort. He put his body weight against the door. With much effort, the two managed to get the rusted iron gate open. They stood at their spots for a couple of minutes, panting and wheezing. It was to be expected. They were not young anymore. Harry bent clutching his stomach and looked up at Don.

“That took a lot of gas. Shall we make a move?”

“We should. I feel so old.”

“Don, you are old.”

Don caught Harry’s eye and they burst out laughing. They stopped abruptly as soon as they heard their laughter echoing. They continued walking deeper into the graveyard, the ever-watchful moon illuminating the rough terrain in front of them. The two friends continued walking slowly. They peered at the names on the gravestones that lay on either side.

“You know Harry, I don’t remember the graveyard being so big. At least it does not look so big from the outside.”

“Your memory serves you well, old fellow. The war is the cause of the expansion.”

“Oh yes, we live in times of war. Brutal times, claiming the lives of so many.”

“They always have Don, they always have. Wars deplete lives and resources. Wow! All this walking is really killing me.”

“I think it is the lack of walking that is killing us.”

Harry chuckled.

Don placed a hand on Harry’s shoulder.

“Have we reached, yet?”

Harry looked around.

“Nah! These are old graves. The new ones are much further. Quit complaining and keep walking.”

Don grumbled. He hated walking. Harry on the other hand, quite enjoyed it. In all their many years of friendship, Harry had never once heard Don go on long walks without grumbling. So, he was quite used to it.

“Let’s go back Harry. I don’t feel like walking any more.”

“Stop being so cranky. You know this is important for me, important for us. We need to do it. Besides, both of us know very well, that after we reach you are going to think the long walk was completely worth it.”

Don ran his fingers through his white hair. He knew Harry was right. However, he enjoyed complaining to Harry. He found it entertaining. The two continued their ritualistic walk silently, pausing every few minutes to catch their breath. After a good ten more minutes, Harry stopped and looked around with a smile on his face.

“This is it, we are here.”

Don flopped on the ground.

“Finally! The torturous walk is finally over.”

Harry snorted.

“Enough of the complaining, Don. It is now time to enjoy.”

Harry walked to the nearest gravestone, the one to his left. Don got up to his feet and followed Harry. Harry bent down, looking at the gravestone and read aloud:

“Pvt. Timothy Douglas lies here. How does this Timothy Douglas sound like?”

Don rubbed his hands in anticipation.

“Sounds like a real fine treat.”

Harry bent down and began unearthing the grave.

“Well, thank heavens for wars. As long as men deplete each other, our kind will never have to go hungry.”

Don smacked his lips in response.

 

via Daily Prompt: Deplete

Daily Prompt: Froth

Gini placed her glass on the coaster. The Dunkel in her frosted glass frothed intensely, threatening to spill out. Inu gave her a disapproving look.

“How you can like your beer like this, has always escaped me.”

Gini looked at Inu’s glass. Her pale ale was sitting perfectly, its copper hued body showing only mild signs of a white head.

“Yeah, yeah! I can’t help it if you like to have it in an unhealthy way.”

“Hey! If you are going to froth it and waste so much of it, I would call that a waste.”

Gini lifted the glass and took a deep sip.

“Like I always say – To each their own.”

Inu laughed.

“Are you laughing at my statement?”

“Not at all. Just at your choice in growing facial hair.”

Gini realized she had froth around her mouth. She joined in the laughter. Their laughter was quite loud, but this in no way caused any ruckus, for there was no else in the pub. It was just the two of them and a couple of servers. The dark pub was tailored to emulate an olden Irish establishment. The walls and tiles had a grey stone-finish while the tables were a complimentary shade of gingerbread brown. The setup was complete with a fully stocked bar, displaying all its wares on wooden open-top shelves, and a multitude of beer taps at a ready reach for the barkeep. Maroon-cushioned bar stools completed the look.

“But, speaking of beer froth, is this not where it all began for us?”

“Right you are, Gini. Right you are. Fifteen years ago.”

“Wow! Has it been so long already?”

“Yep! The first year in our graduation struggle. Wait, my graduation struggle. You were always among the top-scorers.”

“Come on, nothing like that.”

“Gini Siqueira – honour student and pride of the batch.”

“Let’s not forget – party animal.”

“Oh yes! That is how we met. You had had one beer too many and were gyrating on the table, much to the delight of all the boys there.”

Gini chortled as she took another swig from her glass.

“I agree. I had had a lot I guess.”

“Totally! And I had to drop you home after you passed out, knocking the whole table’s drinks on to me.”

“Come on, Inu. I have apologized for that. Besides, that is how we met for the first time.”

Inu winked.

“No apologies needed, stupid. I am glad that happened. After that incident, we frequented this place. Our bond growing stronger hand in hand with the increasing potency of the concoctions we drained here.“

“Indeed. But, nothing could replace beer.”

“Cheers to that!”

Gini and Inu clanked their glasses together, spilling the brown and copper liquids on the table.

“That was a hard cheer. We need to be careful, Inu. Lest we repeat what we did after our final marks came through.”

Inu chuckled, but was quick to place her glass down.

“I did not even expect to pass, you know. I hated numbers, and accounts, and all that shit. I just did it because my parents asked me to do it. ”

“Yes, I know. I remember you announcing that they were tyrants who dictated every move you made in life.”

“I said too much, I guess. You know there was a lot happening then. My parents wanted to marry me off. I had my own dreams, I wanted to do a lot before I settled down. They just did not get it.”

“So, you just ran off and came to live with me. Very mature indeed!”

Inu took a large gulp of the beer.

“Come on, I was a kid back then.”

Gini stuck out her tongue.

“And I wasn’t?”

“No you weren’t. You were always the mature one. You were the one who convinced my parents to drop marriage plans. You convinced them that it was okay for me to leave my house and seek my own adventure. Well, all that as long as I promised to call them every day.”

“I may have done that. However, I was not always the mature one. You handled me through my multiple break-ups and problems. Anyone wanting to mess with me had to go through you.”

“That is what best friends are for, no? I had every faith in you that you would become a big-shot – minting money every day.”

“I had to live up to my best friend’s faith, no? I was never as brave as you were. I stuck to the status quo. Worked at those boring 9 to 5 jobs and worked my way up the corporate ladder. I simply walked down a beaten path. You are different Inu. You took the road through the woods. I don’t think I would have been able to work at jobs that interested me but offered no stability.”

“Yeah, I did a lot of different gigs. However, I continued saving up and always worked towards my dream. Speaking of which, I need to get to work now.”

Inu drained her glass and walked up to the bar. She took her place behind the bar. Gini followed her, glass in hand and sat down on the plush stool.

“So, barkeeper, can I get a refill?”

Inu laughed as she took the glass from Gini and refilled it at the tap.

“You can froth it up, Inu. Our journey began covered with froth. Now, I see you have finally achieved your dream. I think we can do with more froth – a refill for my glass and a refuel for our journey.”

“Thanks a lot for everything Gini. I owe you my dream.”

“No you don’t. Your dream is yours and you worked hard to achieve it. I just helped my best friend achieve it. The victory is yours.”

“No, it is ours.”

“Cheers to that, Inu. Shall we turn on the lights then? It is opening night after all.”

Inu had tears in her eyes as she nodded.

“Very well, co-owner. The Frothy Beer has now reopened for business. My dream is our dream now.”

 

Image Credit: http://img.webmd.com/dtmcms/live/webmd/consumer_assets/site_images/rich_media_quiz/topic/rmq_beer_calories/photolibrary_rm_photo_of_two_glasses_beer.jpg

via Daily Prompt: Froth

Signature

I sat back in my chair, massaging my temples. I was tense. It was an important decision for me, one that would shape my future. The source of my tension was sitting on the table in front of me – a piece of paper, the custodian of my coming years.

“All it needs is your signature on it.”

The voice belonged to the man sitting across me. His voice was deep but smooth, authoritative as well as charming at the same time. Dressed in a dapper black suit and red shirt, he sat back in his plush armchair. One of his hands clutched a glass of scotch, which he gingerly sipped from time to time. His other hand toyed with a Gurkha cigar. His entire attire boasted of opulence. He leaned in towards me. His flawless face looked all the more ethereal when the table lamp’s light shone on his face. His deep black eyes looked into mine. He reiterated his statement.

“All it needs is your signature on it. Then, you are sorted.”

His statement had merit. Mr. Olbaid was the top talent manager in the world, the very best. The fact that he had found me worthy of making an offer to, was proof of my talent. As a struggling musician, all that mattered to me, was being recognized. I wanted it all – money, glamour and most of all – the fame. I wanted millions of fans lining up to see me, thronging around me, asking me for autographs. I wanted the world to know me as the greatest musician that ever lived. This paper was the path to all that. Mr. Olbaid could make it all possible. His voice cut my thoughts.

“Dina, my darling. This is a once in a lifetime offer, I gather you recognize that. You have hunger within you, a real desire to be the best. I like that. That is what got you my offer. Do you really want to remain a struggling musician for the rest of your life? You have talent. However, talent is not enough to get you what you want. Sure, you could refuse my offer and try your hand at working hard. I am sure you will get success. But when? After you are old and wrinkly? When you have no time to enjoy your fame? I am offering you a chance to become a shining star, right now. Do you not want to take the chance? I am a patient man, Dina. But, we have been sitting here for more than a couple of hours. I have smoked through four cigars and almost finished my scotch. I am starting to think that your desire is not strong enough to sign.”

Had it been that long already? It was hard to tell the time in this room. It was decorated with antiques and memorabilia – Byzantine Armor here, Hitler’s pistol there. The dark room housed items used by musicians -all artists managed by Mr. Olbaid and his associates. The only time-keeping device in the room rested on my host’s right wrist. It seemed as though it was just five minutes ago that I entered the room, shook Mr. Olbaid’s cold hand, sat down in the plush armchair and gazed upon the contractual paper.

This whole opportunity felt like a dream to me. It was only yesterday that I was performing at the seedy club near my place, performing for an audience of drunkards ogling away at me. I did not mind the attention. However, this sort of attention was not what I would call success. After my performance, a man dressed in black approached me. He introduced himself as Mr. Olbaid and explained what he did. We set up a meeting for today and went our way. I decided to run a google check on him. I found a website. The homepage had Mr. Olbaid and Associates written in large, bold letters that covered the entire screen of my mobile. There was only two other lines written on the page –

You do not contact us, we contact you. If you are worthy, we will find you.

It was impressive and creepy at the same time. Trusting my instincts, I decided to go for the meeting. I had nothing to lose, no body to answer to. Now, as I was sitting across Mr. Olbaid, the same statement rung in my mind. I had nothing to lose. I moved my hand towards the paper. Mr. Olbaid smiled, withdrew a pen from his jacket and offered it to me.

“Please use this pen. You see it has a permanent sort of ink. You can call it a ceremony we follow here.”

I stretched my arm and accepted the pen. It was sleek to hold. I uncapped it, and gazed upon the golden nib. It had some sort of inscription on it, not that I could make head or tail of the red words. I held the pen in my fingers and signed on the paper. The ink was red – blood red. I felt an intense burning on my forehead, as if something sharp had scratched it.

“Good, very good. That was a fine decision, Dina. You will find that you will achieve all your dreams with us. Tomorrow is your sweet sixteen birthday, and starting tomorrow you will begin your new life of glamour and success. As I promised, you will have your eleven years of stardom and eternal fame. And as you promised, you are bound to us forever. Enjoy your life, Dina. Goodbye!”

 

 

The significance of the 11 years : 27 Club

Image source: https://www.videoblocks.com/video/signed-contract-document-hvkpwld

Whodunit? Part-2

Bruce sat along with his guests in the living room. There was a deathly silence in the room. No one was uttering a word from their mouth. The guests’ eyes moved back and forth, trying to catch each other but trying to avoid Bruce’s piercing gaze. After Alfred had been declared dead, Bruce had activated the lockdown again. He had made it clear to his guests that no one was leaving until the murderer was caught. His guests had been wise not to protest. Bruce had led them to the living room and asked everyone to take a seat. He sat in his armchair and tried to decipher if his guests were involved in the death of Alfred just by looking at their faces. He soon realized this would not work and he decided to break the silence.

“Now, if any of you had any hand or even a finger in the murder of my butler, I want you to confess right now. I promise I will simply hand you over to the police. But, if I decipher it later, there will be no police and no justice. It will be just you and me, and nothing will stop me.”

L gave Bruce a smirk.

“Mr. Wayne, I understand how you must be feeling right now. But, you cannot hold us here as prisoners, you know.  I can make one call from my cellphone and have the cops come here.”

Bruce looked L straight in the eye.

“I knew that was a possibility, so I have already jammed your phones. You cannot have any contact with the outside world until the killer is caught.”

L held Bruce’s gaze evenly. Sherlock cleared his throat.

“Bruce, there was a lockdown that was initiated here previously this evening. Only you or Alfred could have initiated it, since there is no one else here. Definitely not one of us. Now, Alfred is dead and you would not have initiated a lockdown for no reason. So, we could continue being suspicious of each other or accept the possibility that there is another person in this house. The person because of whom the lockdown was initiated and the person who killed Alfred is still somewhere in this house, trapped with us.”

Shaggy laughed nervously and whispered to Scooby.

“More like, we are trapped here with him.”

Sherlock ignored the comment and addressed the detectives in the room.

“We are all under suspicion here, even you Mr. Wayne. Anyone could be an accomplice to the killer here, or maybe even the killer himself. So, if we work together, we can keep an eye on each other and solve the murder case as well. What say?”

Everyone nodded in agreement. Bruce got up from his place.

“Very well, we shall work together. But, since you know my secret I think we should all be on level ground here. I have been keeping a tab on all of you. Let me start with you Sherlock. Wasn’t Irene Adler just a red herring for Watson? You never wanted him to suspect that you had the hots for him and have been jealous of his wife.”

Sherlock turned a deep shade of red. Without waiting for a response, Bruce continued the expose.

“L, you have been known to aid various police departments in apprehending criminals by solving unsolvable cases. But, you also have cut a lot of deals with the criminals, keeping the truly dangerous ones hidden away, until a case carrying renown turns up, and only then you miraculously solve it and apprehend the ones you shielded yourself.”

L sank back into his chair, pinching hard on his lower lip and gazing into distance. Bruce turned towards Inspector Clousseau.

“Now, my French Inspector. You managed to prevent the robbery of the Pink Panther on multiple occasions, even managed to recover it several times. This made you a hero in the eyes of the French population. But, what they do not know is that it was not you who managed to pull off these feats. There were others who did the hard work, but you managed to steal their glory and take all the credit, taking harsh steps to silence the ones who did their duty.”

The French Inspector began fidgeting with his fingers and turned his eyes away from Bruce. Without stopping, Bruce turned to Shaggy and Scooby.

“You are both renowned paranormal investigators. You claim to see ghosts and communicate with them, this the general populace knows. But, do they know that these ghosts and apparitions you have claimed to see are actually hallucinations? Hallucinations caused by those Scooby Snacks you keep munching on.”

Shaggy and Scooby hugged each other as their shivering resumed. Satisfied with the effects his words had on his guests, Bruce got up from his seat.

“Now, I think we are all in a position to work together. Everyone knows each other’s secrets, so we now have leverage over everyone, and hopefully some trust as well. Let us study the crime scene, there are bound to be clues there.”

Everyone murmured in agreement. All the guests were shocked after listening to their hidden truths. With their masks torn off, they felt naked in the gaze of everyone. But, they found their courage in the fact that everyone was in the same boat, and the only way they could get out of this situation, was by working together. They made their way to the scene of the crime. Bruce was not wearing his bat-suit and knew he could not access it without leading the others to the bat cave. He realized he only had his raw-detective skills and smarts to depend on. His huge array of gadgets, save his scanner, were of no help here. Sherlock took the lead while entering the room. He hated other people defiling the crime scene. As he entered, he noticed the body was lying as it was, but there was something new at the crime scene. A page was lying next to Alfred. Sherlock gingerly picked it up, not to touch the dead body. He saw that the page had a note scribbled on it.

Greetings great Detectives,

I hope you are enjoying your evening in Wayne Manor. I wanted to join in on the fun. So, consider this dead old butler my invitation card to your party. Well, it is also a challenge. I am here in this very manor. Prove to me that you are indeed the greatest detectives alive (for now). You have the entire night to solve this challenge. Figure out who I am, and I shall concede defeat.

Yours Sincerely,

Chuckles

PS- Don’t let your guard down, that would be a fatal error.

PPS- Let me give you a hint – We have met.

 

Sherlock read out the message to the others and passed it around for everyone to read. While people took their turns reading and observing the note, others tried to find clues on and around the body. After looking around for a good fifteen minutes, the detectives decided to take a break. Inspector Clousseau wiped his brow with his handkerchief.

“Eet eez not pozzible. Zere waz no cloo we could find.”

Sherlock shook his head sideways.

“Gentlemen, I think we have been directing our efforts in the wrong direction. Clearly, the murderer is smart. He wants us to play the game his way and purposely left the note next to Alfred. That would mean there is a clue in that note.”

L held the note in one hand and pointed at it with the other.

“This name, Chuckles. Does it ring any bells?”

Helpline

via Daily Prompt: Chuckle

It was late afternoon and I was sitting at my desk. I was a volunteer at an NGO that ran a suicide helpline to talk people out of their attempts to commit suicide. I had a break from college and I wanted to utilize my time by contributing to the society. I had just recovered from a serious bout of depression, a depression that had given birth to thoughts of suicide in my mind. I was lucky that my family had talked to me during that time. They explained that my then boyfriend’s abusive behavior was no reason to give up on living. They had told me that I was strong and he was not worth my feelings or efforts. They had heard me out. I had been lucky. But, there are so many people out there who have no one to hear them out and talk them out of committing the unwarranted act. I wanted to be that person. This is why I joined the NGO.

I was just starting out back then, and being a rookie, the NGO had assigned the afternoon slot to me. This time slot statistically showed the lowest attempts at suicide. It had been two weeks now and I had had to pick up the landline phone on my desk only thrice, among which one of them was a call asking about a Pizza delivery. There was only an hour to go before my shift ended. I was leaning back against my chair. Not expecting any calls, I was relaxing with a smoke. Just as I had taken my third drag, the telephone rang. The caller ID showed an unsaved number. I stubbed out my cigarette and picked up the call.

“Hello! Angel Ears, we are here to help you.”

The person on the other side responded with a chuckle. It was hoarse and raspy, as if the person was going out of breath. It chilled my insides.

“Do you think taking of life is the right thing?” the person asked in a soft pitched voice. It sounded as if the person was a male.

“Sir, let me help you out. It is never the right thing to take your own life. Tell me what is on your mind. We will find a way out.”

He chuckled again.

“What if death is the only way out? What if it is a lost cause to continue living?”

His voice was sinister and irritating at the same time. I had a feeling this was a prank call. But, I could not cut the call, it was against the NGO’s policy. I had to continue respond.

“Living is never a lost cause and death is not the way out.  Sir, could I know your name?”

He chuckled, his voice getting hoarser and hoarser. It was making me uneasy. Half of me wanted to cut the call right away.

“You can call me… Chuckles. What if a person does not deserve to live? What if there is no redemption available in life for a person? What if that person nearly led someone else to their death?”

“Chuckles, none of that warrants a person to take their own life. Everyone deserves to live.”

And the chuckling started again. It lasted longer than the previous times.

“Not even if he abuses his girlfriend, physically and mentally torments her every day? Does he still deserve to live?”

The question hit me hard. I was at a loss for words as memories came flooding back to me. I could still hear the man chuckling. It took all my willpower to resist slamming the receiver down. I replied to him as calmly as I could.

“Yes, even such a person deserves to live. Do not give up on life.”

“I know you aren’t being honest. Do such fiends deserve to live?”

A stream of tears had started running down my cheeks.

“No, such fiends deserve to die. But Chuckles, please do not do something as bad as killing yourself. Promise me you won’t suicide.”

My seniors at the NGO had told me that asking for promise was a good way to prevent the suicide attempt. The man did not reply for a few seconds, but I could hear his breath. He seemed to be thinking.

“Very well, I promise you I will not kill…myself.”

He chuckled again before he cut the call. I felt relieved. I had prevented another suicide attempt and I did not have to hear any more of that voice or the chuckles. I lit a cigarette and took a long drag. Even though I felt relaxed, I could still not get over the pause he took before saying ‘myself’. It had an ominous ring to it. Pushing those thoughts to the back of my mind, I tried getting comfortable in my chair. At that moment, I heard a loud crash coming from the street. I got up from my chair and ran to the window. The NGO had a rented out office space on the third floor of a building overlooking a side street. As I looked out from the window, I could see a throng of people encircling a wrecked car. As I concentrated on the wreck, I realized a man was lying on top of it, sprawled in an awkward angle. It was my best guess that this man had plummeted to his death. By the looks of it, he had jumped out of a window of the building that was opposite to the building I was in. I couldn’t help but think that it was Chuckles who was lying on top of the car. I could hear the police coming in and I headed back to my chair. The guilt was weighing down on me. I paced around the room, trying to clear my head.

It had been a good fifteen minutes before I heard the phone ring again. I was hoping that the caller was Chuckles. I ran back to the phone, stubbed my cigarette out and checked the dialer ID. It was a different number. I picked up the receiver. But, before I could say anything, I heard the familiar chuckling.

“Relieved to hear my voice? I had promised I would not kill myself hadn’t I? I keep my promises.”

“I’m glad to hear that Chuckles. Are you feeling positive about life now?”

“Yes…I am. But, you were right. Fiends do not deserve to live. I feel better now.”

“I am glad you do. Do have a nice rest of the day and remember, never give up on your life.”

“I will never forget that. Thank you. “

His chuckling had progressed into a full-fledged laughter which was even creepier. I quickly slammed the receiver down. No sooner had I done that, than the phone rang again. It was yet another phone number. I picked it up.

“Hello! Angel Ears, we are here to help you.”

“This is Detective D’Souza from the police department. May I know what conversation did you have a few minutes ago with Mr. Aviral Singh?”

I was taken aback.

“Aviral Singh? No, sir. I haven’t spoken to him.”

“Ma’am, it would be better for the both of us if you stopped lying. I have Aviral Singh’s phone here with me. Before falling to his death at Reggae Street, the last conversation he had was with this number. Give me the address registered to this number. You and I need to have a chat.”

The detective cut the call. I was shell-shocked. Reggae Street was the street I was on right now. So, the man I saw on the car, must have been Aviral Singh.

It may have been a massive coincidence, but Aviral Singh was the name of my ex-boyfriend. I could feel Chuckles’ chuckling around me.

 

 

Image Credits: http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2012/02/19/article-2103456-11C80587000005DC-203_468x497.jpg

If you liked my work (or hated it) please leave a comment. Let me know what if there is a theme you want me to explore. Cheers and Happy Reading!

 

The Hill

Books have been called a great many things – best friends, keys to wisdom’s treasure and a great deal of other titles. This is because of their ability of fueling imaginations. They have a tendency to warp our sense of reality. But, what if books managed to warp reality itself? What if they took you to new places in earnest?

Being a typical Sunday afternoon, Jon was lazing around his house. Not really in a mood to go outdoors in the summer heat, he decided to indulge in his favorite past time – reading. Jon went to his room and opened up the drawers inside which his many books were neatly arranged. While going through his books and trying to pick one, he found a book he hadn’t seen before. Its tattered look and yellow pages told Jon that the book was rather old. The book had no title on it. Jon opened the book. Instead of a title page, the page had a very peculiar message on it.

Please place your finger on the symbol below. It will seal the bond between book and reader.

Jon scoffed at the message. He figured it must have been something of a trend in the older generations. He decided to play along. He placed his right index finger on the symbol. However, the second he did that he felt a static shock on his finger. He pulled back his hand in reflex and dropped the book. The slight shock on his finger soon transcended into a deep throbbing. His head began to hurt and his eyes began to lose focus. Jon started losing his center of balance and blacked out.

When Jon came to, he realized he was lying on something soft. He thought it was his bed. But, when his eyes gained focus, he realized he was lying on something green. He blinked several times, allowing clarity to return to his vision. He realized the green he was lying on, was actually grass. He got to his feet and brushed off the grass clinging to his body. He looked around and noticed that he was standing at the base of a grassy hill. He thought that he was dreaming, because the last thing he could remember was fainting in his bedroom. He tried willing himself to wake up, but it was to no avail. He then remembered the weird message on the book. He knew that something was fishy, but he had no information to work on. He decided to explore the area.  As he took a few steps forward, the sound of approaching people reached him. He hid behind the bushes. Peeping out, he spotted the approaching people. They turned out to be a pair – a guy and a lady. Their clothing was outlandish. Jon had seen this style of clothing in one of his encyclopedias. It was common clothing during the medieval times. Jon decided to tail the pair. He could barely listen to what they were discussing. The accent was heavy, but he could make out what they were saying. The pair was a married couple. The wife was carrying an empty pail and the husband was carrying a hunting dagger, tucked in his waistband. The wife was complaining about climbing the hill.

“Why did you suddenly want to go on a walk together today? Did the deer you chase around every day, finally get tired of you?”

“Hahahaha! I just wanted to spend some time with my lovely wife. Did you have any other plans?”

“No! Nothing like that. I love spending time with you. I just don’t get why you want to go to the top of the hill right now?”

“It is an ideal spot. Besides, we need to get water too, we are almost out.”

“Very well, but let us not speak while climbing up. It is too tedious.”

The husband guffawed but remained silent. I followed them, making sure my presence went unnoticed.

After a climb of ten minutes, they finally reached the top. The top of the hill was quite rocky, unlike the grassy sides of the hill. At the center of the hill was well. The couple approached the well. Jon hid behind a small bush. He had to crouch low in order to conceal his presence. The wife placed the pail near the well.

“Now, why don’t you draw the water out?”

“Now my dear, what is the hurry? Let us enjoy our time. So, tell me. What are you usually up to when I am gone on my long hunting trips?”

“Well, I tend to our cattle, complete the daily chores, have a chat with my friends, ….”

“…and fool around with mine? Sleep with them?”

Her husband’s statement had clearly shocked the lady. Jon could feel her voice tremor.

“What are you saying, dear?”

“Stop playing dumb. Do you think I wouldn’t find out?”

Growling these words, the man drew his knife. The wife started backing away. With the large knife held in his left hand, the man rushed forward. The woman screamed, but no sound escaped her mouth, for the moment she had opened it, her head had been cut clean off her shoulders. Her head fell down, rolled and stopped near the bush Jon was hiding behind. He could see her wide eyes and open mouth clearly now. He stuffed his hand into his mouth, to avoid making any sound. The hunter had picked up the body of his wife which was still gushing blood. He dropped the body in the well. As Jon heard the splash, he realized the husband was walking towards him to retrieve the head of his wife. Jon’s heart began to pound as the man got closer to the bush. As the man bent to pick up the head, Jon felt as if his heart would give in explode inside his chest. However, nothing of that sort happened and the hunter started walking back to the well, head in hand. When he had reached about halfway, Jon felt that similar tingling in his right index finger. It soon turned into a shock and Jon gasped. The gasp was pretty audible. The hunter turned and his eyes narrowed down on the source of the sound. Jon broke cover and started backing away towards the edge of the hill. The hunter held the head in his right arm and his knife in the left. He charged at Jon, determined to end the witness to his heinous act. Jon’s head was already throbbing. His body had stopped responding. As he saw the hunter get closer, Jon gave up all hope. Groggy-headed, he watched the hunter trip on his own feet near the edge of the hill. The hunter fell down and hit his head on a rock, splitting his head open. Due to the motion of his fall, he continued tumbling down the hill. The head of his wife had fallen out of his hand when he had tripped. It started rolling down the hill as well, following her husband. Upon seeing this, Jon’s eyes closed as he blacked out for the second time in the same day.

Jon woke up to find himself in familiar surroundings of his room. His head was still throbbing, but it was quite mild. He noticed the book lying open, next to him on the floor. The page read

 

 

 

…..And Jill came tumbling after!

 

Image credits:  https://www.shutterstock.com/video/clip-3473861-stock-footage-aerial-shot-of-antelope-running-on-grassy-hill.html

Please Close The Door – I

Moving to a new city has its fair share of problems. Finding good housing is one of those problems. I had faced this problem up till a month ago. At that point, I was flat hunting. Luckily, I did not have to hunt for long. I found a flat in a good locality which was not too far from my workplace. The flat felt cozy and had a great sea-side view. The owner was a cheery old man. The only rule he set up for the flat was that I would have to pay for any damages I caused. Otherwise I was free to do what I wanted within the flat. I thought that was the end of my housing problem. I was wrong.

My flat was on the 11th floor of the building. I agree I like to stay fit. But, the thought of climbing eleven floors never crossed my mind. The elevator was the only option for me. The elevator used a double gate system.  The outer gate was a metal door with a small window at the top, allowing a person standing outside to look in and vice versa. The inner gate was a scissor gate. The elevator did not move unless the inner gate and outer gate were both closed. I was settling into my new job as well. There wasn’t a lot of workload, but I generally take my time to get used to a new environment. So, I used to end up coming late every night from work and after work dinner parties. My new flat was treating me well too. No leaks, no pests and no other bad surprises. However, three weeks ago was when the weird incidents started happening.

It was a Friday night, which meant that it was booze night. I had had my regular share of beers and was mildly buzzing by the time I got back. The night had grown late – 1am. My friends dropped me outside my building and I stepped in after waving them goodnight. I pressed the button for the lift. After it arrived, I opened the outer gate and was met with a familiar high pitched female voice saying

“Please close the door.”

I slid open the inner gate and stepped inside.

”Please close the door.”

My buzzing mind was finding this voice highly irritating.

“Please close the door.”

“Yea, yea, you dumb hag.”

I pulled the outer door and slid the inner gate back into the closed position. I pressed the button for the 11th floor and waited back. The annoying voice finally stopped and the lift began moving. My head was buzzing really hard now. I shifted my attention the LCD display that showed the floor number. Having nothing better to do I decided to count out the floor numbers.

Zero..

One..

Two..

Three..

Four..

Five..

Si –

The lift had halted at five. The female voice started speaking again

“Please open the door.”

I was not sure whether I heard that correctly. Did the voice say open instead of close, or was it the beer finally finishing its job? I started to feel very cold and a sense of uneasiness came over me. I decided to brush the feeling off. The lift had halted but no one entered the lift. I pressed the 11th floor button again. The lift resumed its climb and halted at my floor. I walked up to my flat, unlocked the door and settled into my bed. I decided to call it a night.

A couple of days went by without incident. I woke up in the morning, got ready for work and left my house. As I neared the outer gate of the lift, I noticed a sign put up on it. The sign read:

Lift is closed for maintenance. Please use the stairs.

Inconvenience is regretted.

– Management

I muttered a few curses and rushed towards the staircase. Now, my building had no main staircase. It only had an emergency staircase. On every floor, a door connected the floor to the staircase. I pushed the door open and began my long dash down the stairs. As I reached the fifth floor, I was almost out of breath. I agree, my fitness level was not what it once used to be. I noticed something peculiar. The door that led to the staircase was barricaded shut. This was weird. I figured there was an alternate staircase for the lower floors or something. I was in a hurry so I decided to not dwell on the peculiarity. However, as I reached the fourth floor, I noticed it had a normal functioning door. The same held true for the remaining three floors.  I thought it was really strange. I realized I had to get to office and decided to focus on that.

I got back early from work that evening. I was admiring my building basking in the setting sun when I noticed it. All the windows on the fifth floor were barricaded as well. I had never noticed this before. Or maybe I had, but had ignored it. Now, the entire situation seemed very peculiar. The lift stopping there, the change of statement and now the door and windows being barricaded, I had a feeling it was all connected. I decided to ask my watchman about it.

“Baburao, is the lift functioning now?”

“No sir. It will restart from tomorrow morning for sure.”

“Oh! Baburao, tell me this. Who lives on the fifth floor?”

The watchman gave me a very puzzled look.

“Sir, no one lives on the fifth floor. It has been empty for five years. In fact, it has been sealed shut.”

 

(To be continued…)

 

 

 

Repentance

The airport transit area- a familiar setting for me. I am a frequent flyer. My job requires me to go out of town at least once every week. It may sound tedious but I really do enjoy travelling and especially flying. There is something about being so high in the sky that gives me a thrilling joy. The wait in the transit area can get pretty long. But I have learnt to while away time by conversing with passengers. I have met and talked to many-a-character over the years. But none who were like him.

It had been a couple of years back. I saw him sitting alone, quite away from the crowd. He was looking at the floor the entire time seeming to be deep in thought. From his appearance he seemed like a man not from my own country, but then again the world has shrunk, so I did not know that for sure. But I did know that he seemed to be deep in thought. Something was clearly bothering him. I decided to go sit next to him. Now, quite-a-few people have said that I am nosy and don’t mind my own business. I beg to differ- I like to know about the other businessmen out there. So, I decided to strike a conversation with this troubled soul.

‘Hey. That’s a nice watch you have there.’

He grunted.

I decided to push on-

‘I couldn’t help but notice something seems to be bothering you.  Is it so? ‘

He looked at me with eyes full of gloom.

‘Yes. Something is bothering me. The wrath of God looms over me. I have done a horrendous thing. I do not think there is any salvation possible for me. No forgiveness. ‘

I was taken aback. The sudden outburst of sorrow instantly kicked in my damage-control instincts. I started consoling him.

‘Hey, don’t worry. I’m sure God almighty will forgive you. I do not think that you will be judged so harshly. God loves everyone.’

He said, looking down to the floor again-

‘No, after what I have done, all love will be lost for me. I repent my deeds.’

I was about to say more to him but a sudden increase in the television’s volume interrupted me. I turned my attention to the TV. A breaking-news was flashing on the screen-

“St. Mary High School Bombed. 495 killed.”

After looking at the dreadful images flashing on screen, a mixture of sorrow and rage filled me. I turned towards him and said-

‘Terrorists. They are truly pieces of shit who don’t deserve to live.’

Without giving me a glance, he said to me in a soft voice-

‘Yes. I know.’

Image source – http://sandiegolimoservicesignature.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/san-diego-airport-limo-service.jpg

Dinner

It was a habitual night at the Nath family’s high-rise apartment. It was 9 pm, almost dinner-time. Mr. Nath sat comfortably on his couch, reading the sports page of one of the many newspapers delivered at their house. Mrs. Nath was in the kitchen, making sure the food was warm enough. Ojas was sprawled on his bed, peering into his mobile phone and making sure his fingers received their daily dose of strenuous exercise.

“Dinner is ready” Mrs. Nath bellowed from the kitchen.

Ojas was the first to reach the kitchen. Spotting the golden fried prawns, he quickly grabbed a plate and piled on as many prawns as he could on his plate. He picked up a couple of slices of cucumber and lettuce and started to make his way back to his bedroom, his very own bat-cave.

“Where do you think you are going mister? Aren’t you forgetting something?” Mrs. Nath asked her teenage son, blocking his path.

“No mom. See, I even took vegetables so that you don’t make a fuss.” Ojas said, trying to sound as earnest as possible.

“Did me a huge favor by eating them.” Mrs. Nath said, her words dripping of sarcasm.  “Today is Friday young man, our weekly family-dinner night.”

“Oh damn. Alright, to the dining table it is.” Ojas said, as he stomped his way to the dining table.

Ojas picked the middle chair. His mother sat to his left and his father took the chair to his right.

“Mmm! Anita, the prawns smell wonderful.” Mr. Nath said, his eyes eyeing the juicy prawns in his plate from behind his glasses.

“Thank you, Sujat.” Mrs. Nath said, beaming.

Over the years, her culinary skills had become her sole source of the compliments that she received from her husband.

“Okay, now I think we should all tell each other how today went for us. You know, a nice conversation.” Mrs. Nath asserted.

Ojas and Mr. Nath looked at each other. They were both men of few words. But, they knew there was no escaping this weekly-dinner conversation, or there would be hell to pay. Ojas nodded his head. His mouth was too full of prawns to manage any reply in words.

“Brilliant. Ojas, why don’t you tell us how your day went? And for heaven’s sake, eat like a civilized human and not a nomadic barbarian.” Mr. Nath said looking at his son and offering him a glass of water to wash down the food in his mouth.

Having swallowed the mouthful, Ojas wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

Ojas started his day’s tale.

“Well, okay. My day was normal, you know. I got up- “

“Late” Interjected his parents.

“Well yea, but I did wake up earlier than yesterday. Anyway, I ran to college since I was late. The lectures were normal. Did the same old shit, differentiation-integration all that blah. Then you know, my class bunked and we went and played football at the college ground. It was kick-ass. I scored two goals. Then, post my lunch break, we had free lectures. Apparently my class-teacher Mrs. Desai left during the lunch break. You know, that Mrs. Desai you guys had met in the last parent-teacher’s meeting.”

“Umm, I don’t really recall her, but okay.” Mr. Nath said, adjusting his glasses.

“I remember her. Sweet lady. Okay, go on Ojas.” Mrs. Nath said.

Ojas resumed his tale.

“So yea, she left early for some reason and when she came back after one free period, she seemed to be in a great mood. So, she gave us the rest of the day off. I decided to come home and take the car for a spin with my friends. But, I saw no lights in the house. Mom usually leaves them switched on because it gets dark so early. Had you gone out or something, mom?”

“Yes. I had to buy a few things. You know, for making the prawns.” Mrs. Nath said quickly.

“Ah, well. So anyways, I did not even see our driver, Kailash kaka near the car, so I used the car keys I had and took the car out. I met with a couple of my friends and we took a long drive. Then I dropped them home and came home. Ta-da! End of tale.”

“Okay, looks like you had a fun day. My turn now.”Mrs. Nath said, placing her fork on her empty plate.

“My day was fairly normal too. It began with me getting up and preparing tea and breakfast. Then I saw you both off. After that, I started my preparation for dinner. I had my early lunch while watching my favorite show- Broken Hearts- “

Mr. Nath and Ojas sniggered. Mrs. Nath shot them a killer glance. Both of them fell instantly silent. She continued her tale.

“After that, I called you during your lunch hour, on your cell.” She said looking at Mr. Nath. “But, you didn’t pick up. So I called your office up and they said you had left office. “

“Well, I had a meeting. So I left office early, slightly before lunch time and did not answer my call because I was in the meeting.” Mr. Nath said, and proceeded to gulp down the contents of his glass.

“Oh, okay. So, after that I went shopping. Like I said, there were a few things I needed to buy. I needed beer for making the batter. But, I could find only one bottle. I’m sure there were two yesterday.”

Ojas swept his palms through his hair.

“So, you went to buy beer, mom? “

“Yes. I went to buy a bottle, just in case. Then I came home and started frying the prawns. They turned out really well though. I’m happy you liked them so much.”

“Yes, they were really amazing.” Mr. Nath said, giving a broad grin which he reserved only for the rarest of occasions.

He began his day’s narrative.

“After all the daily morning rituals, I left for office. The roads were lovely today. No traffic. I sorted a few files in the office, nothing much. Then I left for my meeting before lunch.”

“How did it go, dad?” asked Ojas.

“It went really well. The second party was very pleased with what I had to offer.” Mr. Nath said, scratching his beard. “ So then, after the meeting I called you, Anita. But your phone was picked up by Kailash-“

“Yes. I had taken him along to carry stuff and had handed my phone over to him while I was looking at stuff.” Mrs. Nath interjected.

“Oh! That is why he wasn’t near the car. You guys must have gone walking.” Ojas said.

“Bingo. I needed some exercise. Haha.” Mrs. Nath said, brushing aside her hair from her brow.

“Right. So then I got back home. Oh yea, I fired Kailash today.” Mr. Nath said.

“Why?” asked mother and son in unison.

“I found cigarettes in our garage today, around the car.”

Ojas coughed and quickly reached for the bottle of water.

Mr. Nath continued.

“So, I went and confronted Kailash. He seemed strangely guilty even before I broached the topic of cigarettes. He directly started apologizing. But, I know his kind of people does not improve. So, I fired him there right there.”

“Oh!” exclaimed Mrs. Nath in a soft tone.

“That is dinner done then. You guys clean up the table. I’ll get the dishes done.”

Just a regular family-dinner for the Nath family.